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086 Your Socratic Friend

How friends differ from flatterers and how business coaches differ from friends. Includes a plug for my favorite podcast, Philosophise This, by Steven West.


085 The One Silver Bullet

They say there is no silver bullet, but I think I may have stumbled upon an exception, when it comes to creating scalable businesses. Check out this week’s episode.


084 Are You Weak on Sales or Attraction

In today’s episode, I lament about the strategy of an IT resource placement company I recently met, which is selling itself to contractor candidates on the “strength” of its benefit packages. Listen to the show to find out how successful this strategy has proved to be and what could help them, as well as you del listener, to reposition yourself in the eyes of future employees. (Hint: the Entrepreneurial Operating System is a good tool to leverage to this end too.)


083 - High Expectations Work

We had some fierce conversations about my daughter’s pondering whether to drop a class with which she may have overreached. My wife gave her a hard time about it, which I felt was perhaps unreasonable. However, it reminded me of Sam Walton, Walmart’s founder, who stated that “High Expectations are the Key to Everything”. Remember Steve Jobs? he wa [...]


082 - Three Ways to Exert Leadership

I received a question from Christos Nikolau the other day about the difference between Leadership and Coaching. Thanks for the questions Christos! Leadership is the action of influencing people to achieve goals. Coaching is one of the ways to exert this leadership.


080 - The Spouse Behind the Sale

When you are a buyer of a business or an investment banker, it is critical to figure out the motivation of the seller. In today’s episode, I tell the story of the reluctant seller, whose spouse was driving the transaction that he wasn’t committed to make happen. Ev [...]


078 - Smart and Lazy People

One of my favorite books is “On War” from an early 19th century Prussian general, Claus von Clausewitz. This is possibly the most famous book on military strategy after “Art of War”, that most of you have heard of. In his book Clausewitz talks about grouping officers into four clusters in terms of their intelligence and diligence. There are the dumb and lazy officers, who should be left alone. The smart and diligent officers must be taken great care of, as they will get everything done and...


067 - Let Your Cash Flow Build Your Business

I am surprised to see the number of loans and financing offers banks and lending companies issue to small business owners. And when those businesses start to make a profit, venture capital companies jump into the fray. It is not money these start-ups need but talent and time to create a differentiated service that is able to gain traction in the marketplace. Large successful companies like Google often spin off entrepreneurial talent supported by minimal resources to let them experiment...


065 - Travel Outside Your Industry

People tend to look to their peers for ideas. Especially their industry peers, as they assume that the best of them have become successful by having developed best practices. In reality, there is an infinite potential for new ideas, however, advanced the industry. And the easiest place to find good ideas that work is t look at other industries. By travelling outside your industry, you can pick up well-tested ideas that no one is using in your market. You have the chance to become an...


064 - Riding 4 Horses with a Single A–

When I was a kid, my dad used to tell me “don’t try to ride two horses with one a*s”. Recently I have noticed that I am trying to ride not just two, but four horses. (Not mentioning my personal life, which is probably is at least another horse or two). My horses are coaching groups and individuals, publishing my daily Succession Secrets podcast show, gearing up to become a public speaker and growing my coaching business. I feel I should prioritize, but I have no heart to kick out any of...


063 - The Real Reason for the Sale

I recently bumped into a fund manager friend, whom I will call Bill. He told me that people don’t appreciate anymore the “buy-and-hold-forever” philosophy of his fund. I inquired about an example when they did appreciate that in the past. He mentioned about the exiting owner of a contracting company, which chose his fund over a competing strategic buyer, as they offered a “long term future” for his employees. (On further inquiry, it turned out that the seller cheated key staff members...


062 - Variables Affecting The Succession Decision

I identified 5 major variables to the succession decision. Today’s episode is about discussing these. The first variable is the trigger. There are three triggers to transition, including (1) a compelling alternative future for the business owner / leader (another career, post-entrepreneurial pursuits, etc.); (2) her potential inability to continue running the business (ill health, unsustainable/loss making business); and (3) a potential case of burnout (able to continue, but no more...


061 - Inside vs Outside Successor

Today I am answering Mark’s question from Henrico, VA. Business owners often grapple with the dilemma whether to promote an existing employee or business partner or bring someone from outside to succeed them. Surprise, surprise… it depends. Some of the variables are the type of culture the business have, the sensitivity of staff members to a transition, the time needed to groom a successor, any skill gaps the company have and the potential for an outside successor to bring a book or...


060 - Always Propose a Rational Deal

In my experience as an investment banker, business owners often did not understand how to negotiate the sale of their business. Many of them thought that negotiation is about pressuring people to give up most of their upside to make the transaction sweeter for them. This is the so called win-lose strategy. It can work in situations where one party holds all the cards and the other is forced to deal, such as in near-bankruptcy cases. In most M&A deals however, the parties will not do a...


058 - Successful with or without you

Did you ever waver whether to be “tough” with people when they did not perform to your expectations? Worrying that they would leave and you might have to pick up their tasks and look for new employees who might not end up any better? In today’s show I make the case for setting boundaries and high expectation for people. How to be tough on them, still keep them and turn them into high performers. How to dangle the carrot too so that they have a reason to stay beyond the pay check. I...


057 - Biggest Mistakes when Pursuing Succession

What can go wrong with succession. Today, I am answering Jeremy’s (North Chesterfield, VA) question, from the perspective of business owners and leaders. I believe there are four common reasons: Hoping that you get luckyLooking for your alter egoTrying to mentor successors on your ownRelying on the successor for your pension


056 - Be Your Own Investor

Many founders believe that bringing on an investor is a great idea. They see it as a “seal of approval” that they have a valuable business and they might also enjoy the security of a salary or making money from offloading a few shares. Bringing on a VC or Private Equity investor can, of course be justified when the company needs to scale quickly to preempt the competition from catching up with the idea, or when there is only profitable room for a single player in a niche. On the other...


055 - Are you Driven Away, or pulled towards

We can be driven by different forces to get to the next level. Some people are primarily driven from a situation, a job they can’t grow any more in, or a position that doesn’t fulfill them, or a boss who is a jerk. Others are motivated by a desire to fulfill a specific ambition. I believe the “away motivation” can be very powerful, as it is usually triggered by pain, while “towards motivation” requires desire. In fact, “desire-pull” is less powerful for most people, while extremely strong...


054 - You Must Like Them if you Want to Help Them

Listen to my story of working on selling an old-fashioned metal fabrication business, representing an obnoxious business owner. I resented that man, as he appeared to be undermining the negotiations at every turn, with his distrusting and apparently poisonous attitude. He sensed that I disagreed with him and started to suspect me of having ulterior motives in this deal, out of alignment with the ownership group. He was not leading it but was an influential player of a group of...


053 - Why my Friends Ripped Me to Pieces

Today’s show is about a recent experience of speaking to a group of CEOs on the topic of succession. One of the ideas I presented turned out to be polarizing the group and generated a heated discussion. In today’s show, I dissect this experience with the benefit of a few days of reflection and analyze the three things I have concluded to have upset some members of my audience. I also reflect about what vulnerability meant to me in that situation and how I could have reacted...